9-8-2012 Premier Challenges ASA

August 30, 2012

 

Mr. Ron Radigonda, Executive Director

Amateur Softball Association of America

2801 NE 50th Street

Oklahoma City, OK 73111

 

Re:  ASA policy change (US Women’s Jr. National Team)

 

Dear Mr. Radigonda,

 

The recently announced policy change that mandates participation in ASA’s own ASA Gold tournament (to the exclusion of any other tournaments sponsored by any other sanctioned brand of junior women’s softball) as a condition precedent to eligibility for the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, constitutes a dereliction of ASA’s duties, a violation of athletes’ rights and interferes with the rights of other softball associations, such as Premier Girls Fastpitch (“PGF”).  ASA has an unavoidable conflict of interest in establishing a rule by virtue of its role as National Governing Body (“NGB”) of the U.S. Olympic Committee (“USOC”) that benefits its own softball association to the exclusion of others such as PGF.  ASA’s enactment of this self-serving policy conflicts with the obligations imposed upon ASA as the NGB.  We are hereby requesting that ASA reconsider this policy and immediately rescind it.  Due to the short limitations period in Section 9.10 for presentation of claims before the USOC, we will require your retroactive rescission of this unlawful policy within thirty days to avoid the necessity of preserving our rights by pursuing all legal remedies available to protect the rights of the softball players and softball associations adversely impacted thereby.

 

The softball athletes have suffered substantial harm and will suffer additional and irreversible harm as a result of this unlawful policy.  The athletes will be forced to incur substantial additional unforeseen costs for participating in an ASA Gold tournament, as opposed to already scheduled and budgeted tournaments, even assuming the athletes can find an ASA Gold tournament in which to participate at this late date.  Application of the policy to the 2013 female high school graduates is particularly pernicious in view of the untimely announcement of the policy in July 2012, after the majority of tournaments had been completed and those that remain are difficult, if not impossible, to participate in due to conflicting schedules, team travel plans and budgets, which had long before been established.

 

Without a feasible opportunity for participation, this policy operates to bar them from eligibility for the National Team.  By denying these athletes the opportunity to qualify for selection for the National Team, ASA violates the basic rights of these athletes, who are scrupulously protected by the USOC, Section 9.1 of the Bylaws.  Countless athletes are prepared to submit complaints to the ASA and to the USOC, if necessary, to protect their rights to qualify for selection and to compete based upon merit, not softball association allegiance.  ASA’s policy is a clear violation of the athletes’ rights.  To avoid unavoidable and permanent harm to the 2013 high school graduates, ASA must immediately and retroactively reverse the policy at least as to them.

 

ASA’s policy also violates the USOC’s requirements that ASA, as the designated NGB, designate a process for the fair selection of athletes.  See Section 8.7(f) of USOC’s bylaws.  The antithesis of fair selection, the ASA policy stands fairness on its head, instead requiring participation in ASA’s own Gold tournament resulting in financial and other support for ASA to the exclusion of other equally competitive associations, as opposed to selection of the best athletes from any and all brands of sanctioned softball.  Far from fair selection of athletes based upon skill and merit, this policy would reward solely loyalty to ASA and its brand of softball.  Such an exclusionary and self-serving policy must fail.  By preventing many of the sport’s best players from even being eligible for the National Team, ASA violates the athletes’ rights, ASA’s statutory obligations, as well as its own stated primary purpose “to promote competitive balance and to preserve the integrity of the sport of amateur softball.”

 

ASA’s enactment of this policy also violates numerous additional duties imposed on it by virtue of its status as the NGB, pursuant to 36 U.S.C. § 220524, including the following

(1)   be responsible to the persons and sports organizations it represents;

(2)   minimize conflicts in scheduling competitions;

(3)   inform athletes of policy matters and reasonably reflect the views of the athletes in its policy decisions; and

(4)   disseminate in a timely manner rules and changes.

 

ASA’s policy is neither responsible to the athletes nor the sports organizations it represents as NGB, as set forth above.  The athletes, as well as other softball associations, are directly harmed by this rule.  Additionally, the untimely announcement of the policy creates significant scheduling conflicts, particularly for the 2013 female high school graduates whose softball season for eligibility was already half completed at the time of the announcement of the policy.  This late notice violates ASA’s NGB obligations and utterly failure to effectively and promptly inform the athletes of such changes.  Moreover, the policy decision unequivocally does not reflect the views of the athletes in regard to the forced participation in an ASA Gold tournament to be eligible for the National Team.  The policy is opposed by countless member athletes of PGF, as well as athletes affiliated with many other softball associations.

 

ASA’s failure to timely notify athletes of the policy change borders on intentional harm, particularly as to the 2013 female high school graduates, establishing yet another violation of ASA’s NGB statutory duties.  These violations of statutory obligations imposed on the ASA are sufficient to seek a rescission of ASA’s role as NGA, if the policy is not immediately and permanently rescinded.

 

The impact of the policy on PGF and other associations, as well as its impact upon the public in general, cannot be overlooked.  ASA has used and abused its position as NGB and monopoly to exclude competitors like PGF (among others) from the market of junior women’s competitive softball, particularly in regard to qualifying tournaments.   By requiring play in an ASA Gold qualifier tournament, rather than in any of the equally competitive regional or national tournaments sponsored by PGF or other softball associations, as a condition to eligibility for selection to the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, ASA unlawfully restricts trade by depriving the softball players of the opportunity to play with their association of choice and in their tournament of choice (and be selected to the National Team based upon merit, rather than affiliation with ASA).  In addition, ASA effectively operates as a monopoly and has used its market share and position as the NGB to excluded competitors like PGF from the market for Women’s Junior competitive softball.  PGF and other softball associations will be compelled to pursue relief for the damages caused thereby in the event ASA fails to immediately rescind the policy.

 

ASA’s tortious interference with the business relations of PGF, among other softball associations, cannot and will not be tolerated.  The policy operates as a direct attack on PGF as ASA abuses its power as NGB to support its own association in an attempt to regain control over the best junior women’s softball players many of whom have elected to play with PGF and other associations.  PGF has obligations to its players, as well as to its shareholders and investors to remedy this harm to its business interests in the event this policy is not immediately and permanently rescinded.  Undoubtedly, other softball associations will follow.

 

We trust that you will take prompt action to rescind this malicious and harmful policy as it violates ASA’s and USOC’s own policies and procedures, as well as the fundamental rights of the players whom ASA and USOC are sworn to serve and the rights of all other sanctioned softball leagues.  In the event that ASA does not notify us in writing within thirty days of your receipt of this correspondence of your permanent and retroactive rescission of this policy, vowing to maintain the previous policy allowing an open selection to the National Team, without regard to the league of play or participation in ASA’s tournaments, we will have no alternative but to pursue all legal measures to obtain the same action including, but not limited to, claims on behalf of all girls impacted by the new policy and all sanctioned softball leagues impacted by the policy.

 

While we would much prefer to work together to resolve these differences and seek your rescission of that policy, in the event the ASA does not rescind this policy and vow to not reenact a similar policy, we will have little option but to pursue all available remedies to protect the interests of our athletes and our own association, as well as the interests of all softball athletes participating in the Women’s Junior tournaments and other associations.

 

Thanks, in advance, for your cooperation in this matter as we seek to ensure the highest standards in the sport of Junior Women’s Softball.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Daniel H. Hay, President/CEO                        Gary L. Haning, Executive Vice President

Premier Girls Fastpitch, Inc.                            Premier Girls Fastpitch, Inc.

 

cc:        Sara Clark

Athlete Ombudsman Specialist

United States Olympic Committee

1 Olympic Plaza

Colorado Springs, CO  80909

 

SPY Note:  Several weeks ago, Spy asked Radigonda and national teams director Ronnie Isham for clarification on this po;icy, but has received no answer.  If ASA responds to Premier, Spy will publish the answer.

 

 

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